Yeah. Me too. Even though I run a vegan/animal rights blog, a vegan/animal rights Facebook page, visit and donate to places like Farm Sanctuary, and haven't consumed any meat, dairy, or eggs in well over 2 years and counting.
But you see, this morning, I posted a simple Instagram of a box of Oreos, captioned as "Some days, this qualifies as a #vegan breakfast."
I expected a few of my omni friends to be surprised that Oreos were vegan, or for them to make a few lame vegan jokes. I even anticipated a possible hint of judgment with a "that's not so healthy" kind of comment. But no.
My omni friends chimed in with good humor, like "I approve." or "I need a box of these!"
Instead, it was my 'pure' vegan friends who chimed in to remind me just how non-vegan the Oreos really were, and ipso facto, how non-vegan I was.
"They're notoriously noted as vegan but they have bone char," the first one said.
So I took the time to explain that bone char is not a focus of mine, because I worry far more about demand than cheap byproducts that are only used because the demand for meat and dairy still exist. I also explained that bone char is not in the final product. Some sugar manufacturers just burn bones to "char" and then use it as a filter. But without knowing the brand of sugar that every last company out there uses (which changes often to the lowest bidder), it would be impossible to know what was processed with bone char, from hard candy to sweet tea. To me, it's just not realistic. If I'm buying a bag of sugar, I'll choose the brand of organic, non-bone char, sugar. But when it comes to picking up a drink or a cookie, I will not devote hours of my day to research sugar that may switch manufacturers by the next week.
I went on to explain that I don't worry about things like cross-contamination by sharing a griddle. Again, my veggie burger being cooked next to a hamburger doesn't create more of a demand for hamburgers. And requesting such (unless due to a true allergy), is pretty off-putting to restaurants that don't want the hassle, as well as our friends when they invite us over to a barbecue.
No sooner did I explain all of this did another add their two cents.
"Haven't had Oreos since finding out they use palm oil..."
Sigh. Big sigh.
I get it. Bone char = bad. Palm oil = bad. GMOs = bad.
But here's the catch.
Gasoline = bad. Coal = bad. Slave labor = bad. Pollution = bad.
The reality is that I'm sure we'd all like to not have any contribution to any of the above. But the reality is that anything we harvest or take from the Earth will have a lasting, and often negative impact. So whether I'm buying something with palm oil that may be from a region that harms orangutans, or I'm buying something with soybean oil where the workers were underpaid or abused, I can't truly know.
Being vegan is about doing the least harm that you can, within some scope of reason. Knowing that everything we do, and choose, has repercussions. To do NO harm would mean no electricity, or smart phones, or computers, or driving. Because no matter how green, eco, or vegan you make anything, it's still coming from somewhere and impacting something.. even if we never bear witness to it.
Sure, this all makes for lively discussion in a vegan group or forum, so have at it. But when mingled with an audience of omnivores, consider the fact that they already think going vegan (or even vegetarian) is too hard. Posting such comments, trying to catch other vegans not being "vegan enough" is a detriment to the movement as a whole.
If you are really concerned about char, and GMO soy, and palm oil.. okay. You search those labels and call companies to find out their sources as much as you want. But don't set the bar so high that nobody can pass muster. Don't be the pushy, asshole vegan.. even to OTHER VEGANS.
In sum, unless every cookie you've eaten in the last year was homemade by your vegan grandmother, and every ingredient was grown by a vegan on a local organic farm, and delivered by a vegan on a bicycle.. we really shouldn't be pointing fingers at each other. Or for that matter, the smart phone you're likely reading this on better have been made by a group of monks, comprised of all recycled goods, shipped to you with carbon offset vouchers, and a rainbow. Because the reality is that for nearly everything we consume, we're putting money into CEOs and corporations that don't share our values, even if the product itself does. So, we should be focused on what we can do. And that's being approachable to 'outsiders.' To showing them that being vegan is relatively simple and delicious. That they don't have to give up everything they ever loved. We'll win a lot more hearts and minds with that approach.
And just for the record, major animal rights organizations agree with me, and these articles are worth a quick read:
Peta: A Note About Small Amounts of Animal Products in Foods
Vegan Outreach: How Vegan?